The Parathyroid Glands
Anatomy of the parathyroid glands
The parathyroid glands are two pairs of small, oval-shaped glands. They are located next to the two thyroid gland lobes in the neck. Each gland is usually about the size of a pea.
Function of the parathyroid glands
Parathyroid glands produce parathyroid hormone, which plays a key role in the regulation of calcium levels in the blood. Precise calcium levels are important in the human body, since small changes can cause muscle and nerve problems.
The parathyroid hormone stimulates the following functions:
Release of calcium by bones into the bloodstream
Absorption of calcium from food by the intestines
Conservation of calcium by the kidneys
Stimulates cells in the kidney to transforms weaker forms of vitamin D into the form that is strongest at absorbing calcium from the intestines
Treatment Neck Surgery’s Scarless Alternative
More than a year after her initial sore throat, Gwen met with head and neck surgeon Jonathon Russell at Johns Hopkins to discuss a thyroidectomy. When she explained her symptoms, such as low bone density, fatigue and kidney stones, Russell ordered additional tests. “Her symptoms were not consistent with what I would have expected,” he recalls. The test revealed abnormally high calcium, vitamin D and parathyroid hormone levels in her blood.
Russell formally diagnosed Gwen with hyperparathyroidism caused by a parathyroid nodule.